“Peace and Tranquility”
Photo credit: Fred von Winckelmann
Painted Dogs (also called African Wild Dogs) are the second rarest canid in Africa, after Ethiopian Wolves. Fifty years ago, these beautiful predators could be found in 39 countries south of the Sahara desert. Today, they are found in only 19, and are considered ‘endangered‘ by the IUCN. Their populations have suffered an extensive and rapid decline due mainly to habitat loss and fragmentation, as well as conflict with and persecution from humans. For quite some time, many who share the land with these animals have viewed them as vicious, vile, livestock-killing mongrels. As a result, many have been shot, trapped, and poisoned. Zimbabwe-based NGO, Painted Dog Conservation, has made significant efforts to save this species from extinction and has been very successful in changing perceptions of these fascinating creatures.
Historically, packs of over 100 could be seen in the savannah, but the reduction in their range and numbers has resulted in smaller pack sizes averaging between five and twenty individuals. African wild dogs differ from their canid relatives in that they have four toes on each of their front feet instead of five. Their long legs and lanky body aid them in speed and endurance. They have large round ears that help to keep them cool and provide excellent hearing. Their coat is adorned with splashes of black, white, and varying shades of brown, hence the name ‘Painted Dog’. Each dog’s markings are unique, helping researchers differentiate between individuals.
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